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March 2, 2009 | by  | in News |
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Rural Taranaki Not Conducive to Uni Games Prep

In the shadow of the incidents that plagued Victoria University’s 2008 University Games campaign, Vic officials have experienced unprecedented difficulty in finding accommodation for the 300 athletes expected to attend this year’s games in New Plymouth.

Current arrangements, which have yet to be finalised, include having 200 team members based on a marae 15 minutes away from Hawera, an hour south of New Plymouth, with the other 100 members based in the town itself.

Victoria Team Manager Brent Hayward said difficulties in arranging accommodation in New Plymouth began to arise in October 2008 when a number of motels and hotels in New Plymouth expressed reluctance in housing students for the games.

Reasons cited by hoteliers included not wanting to book en-masse during “peak season” and a more general reluctance to accommodate students based on reputation.

University Sport New Zealand (USNZ) Executive Director Louise Burns said as organisers of the games they do not usually dabble in accommodation arrangements, but that part of the Taranaki region’s bid for the games included an offer to assist teams in finding appropriate accommodation.

In the case of Victoria, Burns recognised that the fallout from 2008 games made finding accommodation “more challenging.” Hayward concurred that Victoria would be a “harder sell,” but felt USNZ could have played a greater role in assistance.

“USNZ have excused themselves from responsibility,” he said.

“This is their event. From the moment we leave on the bus and head north, we’re under their jurisdiction. I had a meeting with USNZ and hoteliers about arranging accommodation, but received no feedback on any outcomes. We’ve had no guidance or assistance from USNZ whatsoever.”

Victoria can take slight solace in the fact it isn’t the only university experiencing difficulty in finding accommodation in New Plymouth, with Auckland University approximately 100 beds short.

In response to these difficulties, USNZ set up an 0800 assistance number for team managers.

“The [0800] number fell on deaf ears for two months,” said Hayward. “I left a message in November ’08, and didn’t hear back until January 10.”

Despite the difficulty Hayward had experienced, efforts were still afoot to ensure Victoria would have an opportunity to defend the shield it won in 2008.

The fallout from the 2008 University Games in Rotorua where several athletes from Victoria University were evicted from motels for disorderly behaviour still lingers in the mind of organisers and team managers alike.

In an effort to avoid a repeat of last year, the introduction of an internal code of conduct and set of disciplinary procedures has been mooted. “We still have an obligation to put in controls to minimise any incidents,” said Hayward.

“But let me be clear, no disciplinary action has been taken out against any Victoria athlete yet for Rotorua. There’s been no penalties from NZUSA, VUWSA or Victoria itself,” he said.

Though the outlook may seem bleak for Victoria’s top sporting names, Hayward remained optimistic that accommodation in New Plymouth could still be sought, with home stay options and a gentler idea of motels taking in “10 or so athletes instead of 50” being raised as alternatives.

However, the difficulty faced was still very real.

“The logistics of getting members to sport events and after match functions and then home again creates a decent hassle for a team manager,” said Hayward.

“You have to consider things like sober driver numbers, and people perhaps being left behind too. I just don’t think student service was a priority for NZUSA when organising this.”

This year’s University Games is set to be held over the weekend of 15 to 17 April in and around the New Plymouth area.

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